Thabiso Thakali

Joburg residents are yet to see any practical results of a bold plan to dedicate 1 300 metro police officers to the city’s 130 wards as part of a new strategy to create safer communities and ensure by-law enforcement.

Joburg Mayor Parks Tau announced almost two months ago that the city planned to permanently allocate metro police officers to each ward to “reclaim the streets” and ensure crime prevention.

This meant 10 officers a Joburg ward were to patrol the neighbourhoods along with community policing forums, street patrollers and neighbourhood watches to take back the streets.

The metro police officers would be based at ward level and would partner with the SAPS to ensure the city was safe, secure and resilient in protecting, serving and empowering communities.

However, this week the city could not say when the metro cops would be deployed, amid growing calls for by-law enforcement in the city.

Anda Mbikwana, spokesman for the city’s public safety, said the plan was at consultation level with residents and the details of the launch would be made soon.

He said the city was still committed to increasing police visibility in all areas to ensure there was by-law enforcement, traffic flow and public safety, particularly in the townships.

“We want this process to be interactive on how we can improve our service to the communities, but we haven’t completed our consultation with all the CPFs, schools, and community leaders,” he said.

“We hope we will be able to deploy the metro police officers by no later than July. However, it’s difficult to give a time frame now.”

Mbikwana said the city had already held meetings with more than half of the city’s 130 wards, where a by-law awareness programme was being run. He said there was general lack of knowledge about the city’s by-laws and that this remained the community safety department’s priority.

But Jadd Harding, chairman of the Linden Community Policing Forum, said he knew nothing of the new plan and that no meeting had been held with them on this.

“We have had no talks with the Joburg metro police at all, or anyone, on this,” he said.

“In fact, half the time a car accident happens in our area people wait for an hour for the metro police to arrive.”

DA Joburg’s spokesman on community safety, Mervyn Cirota, said he had heard nothing about the plan during several safety committee meetings.

“There has been no word whatsoever since the mayor spoke of this strategy,” he said.

“I just wonder whether it was just for the speech on the day. There has been no indication when and how the roll-out of this was going to take place.”

A number of Joburg residents have complained to the Star’s MetroWatch about lack of by-law enforcement in several suburbs, which had led to illegal activities and crime.

Tim Truluk, a ward councillor for areas including Rosebank and Parkhurst, said no consultation had taken place in his area on the deployment of the officers.

Truluk said the cross-cutting theme that came out of the city’s Growth and Development Strategy meetings had been poor by-law enforcement.

“If this plan is fully implemented it will actually be great for the residents, but we haven’t seen anything about it practically. This is one of the major problems of the city’s failure to communicate properly with its citizens,” he said. “I am holding thumbs and not my breath at this stage.”

Tau also promised in March, during his state of the city address, that the council and IBM were developing a smart city safety strategy that would include CCTV and surveillance cameras.